Monday, 1 February 2010

How does it all end?

Lucy blogged recently about the myth of one element of a script being more important than another, or at the very least given more importance by those assessing it. So, for example, dialogue and character over plot. This of course, as Lucy says, is complete nonsense. If only it was that easy! This is also true with different parts of the script. How many times do we hear that the first 10 pages are the most important. But so many specs suffer from a severe drop off in the middle, so maybe act two is the secret key? But then again, the ending is the last thing the audiences sees and often the first thing they remember. So this has gotta be pretty important too, right?

The obvious truth is that everything, every single element and every single moment of the script has got to work and stack up. Because everyone (readers, producers, agents) are looking for a reason to say no. Not because they are mean. But because they are swamped. And a no is easier than a yes. A great 10 pages might mean the whole thing gets read, but a lag in the middle or rubbish ending will see it quickly placed into the rejection pile. Great characters and snappy dialogue is wonderful - but if the plot has bigger holes than Arsenal's midfield, you're gonna be as successful as they are.

That said (!) I want to look at the endings of The Wrestler to see how it defines the tone of the movie and leaves the audience with a specific emotional feeling that will effect how they describe the film to others. (And I'm looking at the ending so yup, they're gonna be spoilers!)

The Wrestler was one of the surprise hits of 2008 and relaunched Micky Rourke's career. The story of a WWE style wrestler called Randy, way, way past his prime, still living on former glories. He is estranged from his daughter and the only thing he has resembling a close, personal relationship is with a stripper called Cassidy. Randy suffers a heart attack is in told not to wrestle any more. But Randy struggles out of the ring, and away from the roar of the crowd, and to cut the film short, after screwing things up with his daughter yet again, returns to the ring for the rematch of the century - against the wishes of Cassidy who pleads with him not to risk it.

What's interesting is that I read the script before I saw the film. In the script, during the finale, as Randy climbs the ropes to leap onto his opponent in his signature move, it says:

Torn, his eyes drift in Cassidy's direction.

HIS POV: Cassidy is gone.


Randy bows his head in disappointment.


The crowd cheer, Randy leaps, and the film ends. I read it as a tragic story. The guy has messed up his life, cannot move on and form any real relationships with people, and is going to kill himself in the ring, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon.

It's a fantastic script but when I told a friend what I thought, they disagreed. They saw it as an act of defiance by Randy. He was going to live his life, his way, and keep his dignity. (As opposed to the crappy store counter job we see him endure and quit etc.) But when I came to watch the movie, I noticed something very interesting. The shot described above is not there. The definite look towards Cassidy, and the disappointment that she has gone - and therefore seemingly given up on him - is missing from the film. And that one change altered so much of the meaning for me. If Randy doesn't look for her, if he just climbs the ropes, sucks in the adoration of the crowd, and takes a defiant leap - then hell yeah it's a different tone to a sad, tragic glance for something, or someone, that is not there any more.

I don't know if this was done in the shoot, the edit, a late rewrite - or whose decision it was. I might even be making a big deal out of something that wasn't even seen as being that significant. But I noticed it straight away and like I say, it did change the meaning of the scene. And as the final scene, it fundamentally influenced the whole story! As writers we might not have much control over something like this when it comes down to it. But we need to be aware that at script stage at least, what we write - even one single shot - can have significant ramifications in influencing how you want the reader to feel about your story.

1 comment:

davidmelkevik said...

I haven't read the script but watching the film I was left with the same impression as you -- that it was a tragic story -- but for a different reason.

I took from the film's ending because he doesn't look for Cassidy (the one person who could offered him a different life)it makes him entirely responsible for his own fate because he didn't want to be saved.

So although the resulting feeling is the same in both, for me, the film entirely puts the "blame" firmly on Randy's shoulders. He is who is and he's given up on trying to change because he knows he can't.